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Ending Female Genital Mutilation among Kurds: Couple Approach in Iranian Journal

7.6.2017. By Osman Mahmoudi

Despite some successes in ending FGM among Kurdish people in Iran the rate of abandonment has been slow. Based on Osman Mahmoudi’s and Elham Houseini’s study on Psychosexual complications of Female Genital Mutilation for couples, published recently in the Journal of Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, the couple developed now a new approach to the abandonment of FGM. The Osman Project (OP), named after the reseacher and initiatator of nongovernmental activities that promote mental health and development of women and girls in Uramanat region of Kermanshah province, started in 2010 in Javanroud, and later in Salas, Paveh, and Ravansar. OP’s main goal was to overcome the negative biases against couples and instead involve these couples in community efforts to improve the health and well-being of women and children.

In a new study documenting Uramanat couples’ involvement in promoting improved maternal health and child nutrition practices from 2015-17, the findings were encouraging.

Most research on health and sexuality consequences of FGM has been limited to circumcised women, and prior to this study, no research was done on the effects of FGM to couples. With attention on psychosexual problems related to FGM and on increasing numbers of women who were circumcised in childhood and who have now reached the age of marriage or of being married, the sexual function,
mental health and marital satisfaction of these women and their husbands is going to become an increasingly important issue. There is no previous research on health and psychosexual effects of FGM in couples.

Because this study was conducted on couples it enabled us to give a wider picture of sexual function, mental health, and marital satisfaction in women affected by this practice and their husbands. Our study makes several contributions to what is known about the association between the relationship of
mental health, marital satisfaction, and sexual function among couples who are victims of FGM.

We found that FGM is strongly associated with marital dissatisfaction, sexual dysfunction, and psychiatric symptoms for both wife and husband victims of FGM. As we expected, in the field of fear, paranoid thoughts, psychotic thoughts, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and feelings of inferiority, couples who were victims of FGM were in worse mental condition than couples without FGM. Second, we found that marital satisfaction of couples who were victims of FGM was lower than that of other couples, specifically in the fields of personal issues, marital relationship, solving problems, and sexual relationship. Finally, we found that sexual function of couples who were victims of FGM was lower, specifically in psychological arousal, physiologic arousal, ease of orgasm, and orgasm satisfaction, compared with other couples.

The results obtained from this study suggest that those women with FGM and their husbands more than likely also experience low mental health, marital dissatisfaction and sexual dysfunction in societies with power disparities hidden in social and cultural expectations, and this may also affect relational expectations.

This study examined several contributions, i.e., the gaps in FGM literature and lack of empirical studies on the impact of FGM on couples. Psychosexual dysfunctions that result from FGM certainly have implications for the marriages and relationships of these couples. Evidently, FGM is associated with many long-term psychological, marital, and social problems for the women who undergo the procedure and for their partners. It is important then for health centers, hospitals, mosques, and women’s organizations to spread the message about the health impairments associated with FGM in order to protect women and couples in the future .This is especially important for counselors working with victims of FGM. It has even been suggested that counselors seek to be a part of promoting public engagements about ending the practice. By doing this, counselors could help women and couples protect their health and their marriage within society.

Based on this study, OP was created in the context of FGM. The OP aims to bring about positive changes by including couples and men, a in the context of FGM marginalized group. The project encourages learning and communal decision-making through open discussions about problems facing the community. OP hopes this will lead community members to identify their problems and reach consensus on possible solutions that best suit their needs, leading to long-term effective changes in harmful practices.


Osman Mahmoudi, Elham Hosseini: Psychosexual complications of female genital mutilation for couples: A comparative study, in: Journal of Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, 20/4, 2017